Lockdown lifting must be done with extreme care: WHO

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Mission briefing on COVID-19 today:

Almost 2 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO from around the world, and more than 123,000 deaths.

That’s more than 40,000 more deaths since I spoke to you last week.

This is an alarming and tragic increase.

At the same time, we’re seeing encouraging signs in some countries that have been the epicenter of the pandemic.

As you know, some countries are now considering lifting social and economic restrictions.

This is something we all want - but it must be done extremely carefully.

If done too quickly, we risk a resurgence that could be even worse than our present situation.

Our new strategy update outlines six factors for countries as they consider lifting restrictions.

First, that transmission is controlled;

Second, that health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact; 

Third, that outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes;

Fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go;

Fifth, that importation risks can be managed;

And sixth, that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”.

At the same time, the virus is moving into countries and communities where many people live in overcrowded conditions, and physical distancing is nearly impossible. 

COVID-19 magnifies our existing health inequalities. Governments must consider that for some countries and communities, stay-at-home orders may not be practical, and may even cause unintended harm.

Millions of people around the world must work every day to put food on the table. They cannot stay at home for long periods of time without assistance.

We are concerned by some reports in the media about violence erupting as a result of physical distancing restrictions.

We’re also concerned by reports of an increasing trend in domestic violence linked to the stay-at-home measures. This must be an area of focus for all countries.

Meanwhile, schools have closed for an estimated 1.4 billion children. This has halted their education, opened some to increased risk of abuse, and deprived many children of their primary source of nutrition and health care.

The pandemic is also disrupting the provision of essential health services and hampering our fight against other priority diseases.

Vaccination campaigns for polio have already been put on hold, and other vaccination programs are at risk because of border closures and disruptions to travel.

Since Friday there have been four new cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after 54 days without a new case.

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